On Book Launching - Debbie Bennett

I officially launched my third paperback book last Friday. The lovely Dolores, new landlady of our local pub offered to host the launch for me and supported by my equally lovely neighbour and friend Gill, I decided to take up the offer.

I ordered stock – all three paperbacks weeks ago. I even parcelled up a few sets of all three books in gold Christmas paper, all ready to be bought and given as presents. I experimented on Vistaprint with keyrings and ordered twenty as a gimmick (not cheap, and I’ve since found better and cheaper ways of doing keyrings).

I always have postcards (Vistaprint again) and I did some flyers and a few A4 and A3 posters. I'm lucky in having a print shop at work that will do personal printing and copying at trade prices, subject to work commitments. I even dyed my hair to try to hide the fact that I will be fifty next month ...

So Friday evening arrives and I stuff everything into a box. On goes the face and the short skirt and I drive down into the village. In the pub, I arrange the tables with the help of husband and teenage daughter, who lays out my books very prettily in piles. I buy an entire bottle of white wine from behind the bar and a large glass.

Friends arrive. Friends from a facebook writers' group who I've known for a year or more but only met for the first time last week at a lunch in Chester, and yet they came to support me (even travelled some distance to share my bottle of wine too). Friends from the village and my lane; friends from my local writers' group. Canapes arrive too - all beautifully laid out.

I'm supposed to do a reading. That's what you do at a book launch, isn't it? But it's really hard to find a passage of the right length, that doesn't contain spoilers, doesn't contain too many unfamiliar names and makes sense in isolation. In my case I also had to make sure it didn't contain too many swear-words - I went through it the day before and edited out words, sentences and even paragraphs to get it to a length that would hold interest and be readable. 

Two glasses of wine - any more and I'd be incapable of reading any words with more than two syllables. So I climb up onto the windowsill, get them to announce it over the microphone and read four or five pages after a brief introduction. They'd offered me the microphone but even two glasses of wine isn't going to make me brave enough to read swear words that loudly, even if it is just dialogue! One of the guys from the drama group had even offered to read it for me, but I felt that it really did have to be me.

And it wasn't quite as scary as I'd expected. I don't like being the focus of attention like that, but I managed and apparently didn't trip up or (worse still) bore anybody! And I sold some books, gave away keyrings and postcards and maybe those that didn't buy will look me up later.

It was fun. Not sure I could have done it sober or without the support of all the wonderful people who came along. Writing is a lonely business most of the time, but a writer is nothing without readers and sometimes you have to come out of your shell and engage with people in the real world. It's hard but very satisfying.


19 days to go until Christmas and the Authors Electric Book Bonanaza! 


Lee said…
Good for you!

I engage plenty -- too much, in fact -- with the real world; I just don't do it with readers. Well, not quite true: I am my own reader, and even if I had no other, I wouldn't think of myself as a nothing-writer (at lest most of the time).
Kathleen Jones said…
Good for you, Debbie!! Those sorts of events are really scary and, like you, I have to have at least one glass of wine before I can face an audience. It's public exposure - I used to think it was like lying down naked on a railway line and waiting for the train to come along, but it gets a bit better with practise.
The launch looked great and glad you sold some books too! Good luck!
Dennis Hamley said…
That sounds great, Debbie. In all my life I've only given one launch party. That was in 2008 for what has turned out to be the last novel I wrote for a mainstream publisher. Not that they paid a single penny towards the celebrations. A neighbour who owned a lovely flower shop lent it to me for the night, we laid in lots of wine on a cheap offer from Oddbins, Kay and my daughter-in-law did great nibbles and canapes which were served by grandchildren as waiters and we had over fifty people there. A fair number of books got sold. I gave a talk about the book and had a passage all marked out to read. But was it the wine, the excitement of the moment,or simple inbuilt absence of mind? I don't know. But afterwards I realised that I'd completely forgotten to read the extract of which I was so proud. Several times over the last five years I've wondered if it's worthwhile getting everybody back so they can get it read to them after all.
Jan Needle said…
Lovely stuff, Debbie. If I'd known about it I would have come - publicity, girl, publicity! And I still haven't reached you in my pile of books I have to read, so it would have forced me. Congrats, though, you brave person.

Question for Kathleen, though. How often can you practise lying on the railway and waiting for a train to come along? I sense a flaw here.

For Dennis - thanks for the lovely review of The Devil's Luck in Eclectic Electric. I haven't got my head round this newish resource yet because I'm snowed under. But I sure will soon. There's at least a couple of AE books I want to write about.
JO said…
Well done, Debbie - you've set a great example for the rest of us.
madwippitt said…
Brilliant! Why don't you live closer! :-)
Debbie Bennett said…
It's amazing how much courage one can get from two large glasses of wine! So hard to do a reading though. I could see people from the corner of my eye, but didn't dare look up... next time, I shall stand in the middle of the room and "own" the scene a bit more. Make it less cosy and more in-your-face and listen-to-me! Next time...

Next challenge is a literary festival!
julia jones said…
So you were CALLING THE TUNE, n'est ce pas? Congratulations
Lydia Bennet said…
Good for you Debbie! Glad it went well. As a poet I'm used to performing and normally do a string of gigs for each book. The first launch event is always fun but nervewracking. I've had several of mine at blackwells bookshop but one at a nightclub wbich was great fun. I often have my daughter singing too or some other entertainment besides me!
Good for you, and so glad you did the reading! It's good to engage with readers in person, mostly because when they've come out to an event, they are usually really nice and supportive and as writers we're always a bit surprised by that! I usually find that the more people I know at an event, the more difficult it is. Strangers aren't so bad, but however supportive they are, (and they are!) people who know you are a bit daunting!

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